Whether you lead a team of professionals or are generally a corporate and/or community leader, one way to establish trust, earn respect, and foster loyalty is through empathy. Different from “sympathy,” or the feeling of pity and sorry for someone else’s misfortune, “empathy” is the ability to share and understand the feelings of others. It confirms your humanity, it makes you relatable, it connects you to other people.
Given all that is going on in the world – not least of which is a global pandemic that has certainly disrupted lives in far-reaching, unquantifiable ways – I turned to my dear friends, Mindy Corporon and Lisa Cooper, of Workplace Healing LLC, to get their take on the value of empathy. As it happens, Mindy and Lisa have individually experienced more than their fair share of grief and, being the visionary, can-do women they are, created the H.O.P.E. Workshop to help companies find the delicate balance between the head and the heart in the workplace after an associate has experienced a life disruption.
Here’s what they suggest for leaders to become more empathetic with their teams:
- Recognize that Life Situations are Currently Magnified. As a result of Covid, employees and their families are dealing with a lot! For many, the unknown is frightening and is amplified by the uncertainty around how long the pandemic will last.
- Understand that Fear is a Powerful Emotion. Fear can often override the ability to focus on work. Yes, the work still needs to get done, but understanding employees’ worries about themselves or their loved ones contracting the virus will go a long way to ensuring that co-workers can refocus and get back to the business at hand.
- Be Flexible – Life Disruptions May Necessitate Remote Work. Situations that took time away from the office before the pandemic can become heightened. Elderly relatives in isolation and new mandates for funerals are a frightening reality. To the extent possible, be flexible with an employee’s work time. Recognize the best time for “Jill” to work may seem unusual. Is it from 5 am to 9 am, before her kids get on their school internet sessions? Or is it from 6 pm to 9 pm, when smaller children are sleeping?
- As a Leader, Radiate Hope and Offer to Help. Times are tough. We’ll get through this together. Your optimism, positive outlook, and upbeat disposition will help others to believe it, too.
On the other side of the “time of Covid” or another other “normal” year, it will be gratifying to know that you led with empathy in the face of disruption for yourself and your colleagues. Take pride in being an empathetic leader, take pride in continuing to get the work done despite disruption, take pride in modeling kindness, strength and resilience – you, your team and your company will benefit as a result.